Recent warnings of a looming famine and catastrophic food insecurity have put the Horn of Africa into renewed focus of the international community. In South Sudan, UN organizations have already declared famine in several counties. They stressed that the continuous rise in food insecurity was largely ‘man made’, a consequence of the ongoing civil war in the country.
This context forms the basis of Switzerland’s Cooperation Strategy for South Sudan 2017-2020. The new strategy endorses the principle that assistance needs to be conducted in a conflict-sensitive manner and must fully take into account South Sudan’s political economy. It also recognizes that there is a need to not only mitigate the symptoms of South Sudan’s recurrent crises – immediate humanitarian needs resulting from food insecurity and displacement, but also to address their underlying causes.
The strategy thus proposes a holistic approach by accepting the political nature of humanitarian work. It combines instruments covering the spectrum from emergency response (where needed) to early recovery (where possible), as well as peacebuilding. Concretely, this means Switzerland supports organizations in providing lifesaving food for the most vulnerable, and in enabling farmers to become self-sufficient. Switzerland also invests in spaces for dialogue and peacebuilding initiatives, for example through collaboration with the South Sudan Council of Churches.
In practice, the integrated strategy builds upon a close collaboration within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, which translates into joint analysis of the context and joint programming on the ground. Furthermore, it enhances Switzerland’s advocacy and policy influencing role, for example through convening donors, practitioners and academics, and establishing fora for thinking beyond insular humanitarian, development or peacekeeping mandates.